Having survived 30 hours of travel from Launceston to Leamington Spa in the english midlands, we’re taking a couple of days r & r before heading to Cheltenham for the start of the Oxygen Tour at Greenbelt festival.
The travel was trouble free – but let’s face it, there is no painless way to spend that long in transit (though I’d one day like to give it a shot in first class just to test the theory!). We flew with Malaysia Airlines and had good service, reasonable legroom and plenty of food that exceeded the ‘normal’ standard for airline food.
In some ways of course, England is a lot like Australia, and even more like Tasmania. But its always the little things that remind you that you’re in another country, and another culture.
We have “eftpos” in Australia, but it’s “pin and swipe” in England. I’ve presented my non chip-enabled travel money card in a few shops now to be met with blank looks and “it doesn’t have a chip?”
At home in Australia, the cars are predominantly Australian, Japanese or Korean. In the UK the roads are filled with every European brand, and only relatively few Japanese cars.
We walked up the high street today, looking in shop windows and making small internal comments of translation….”Blacks” is the same as Mountain Designs, “Superdrug” is like Priceline, “Marks & Spencer” is our Harris Scarfe. There are the global brands of McDonalds, Starbucks and Body Shop, but there are plenty of unfamiliar names.
Even these relatively unimportant and easily managed differences remind us that we’re not at home any more, that we have to work to make sure we understand the people we interact with and that they can understand us.
We’ve also figured out that some goods and services are much more competitively priced here than at home. Mobile telephone services for example. I picked up a mobile broadband internet dongle with 3gb of credit for the total sum of $35. At home we pay telstra something like $60 a month for 1gb/month mobile broadband. I guess 50 million people in an area smaller than Victoria matters.
Leamington Spa, the place we’re staying with friends at the moment is a beautiful town. Historially one of the ‘spa’ towns that attracted visitors from all over the country to come and ‘take in the waters’, it’s now a modern community of something like 150000 in the English midlands. The Leam River runs through the centre of town and is fringed with beautiful gardens, while the central business district is pedestrian friendly and welcoming. We’ve enjoyed wandering around town, exploring the museum and art gallery, and checking out some of the local eating establishments (no suprise to know I’ve already tracked down a pretty decent chocolate milkshake!).
We’re in Leamington for another 24 hours before heading for Cheltenham to meet the rest of the crew.